Summer 2015 TV Review: The Astronaut Wives Club

8 Jul

The Astronaut Wives Club

The Astronaut Wives Club was not very good, but more than that the pilot was very odd. Not odd in that it was not linear or hard to follow or particularly complicated or surreal. Rather it was simply a strange, rambling, I-have-no-idea-what-the-goal-for-the-series-is pilot. Usually drama pilots offer some kind of statement for what the show is, and even if it’s not entirely fully formed, dramatic pilots are generally better indicators of the show’s futures than comedy pilots. Usually, there’s an obvious mini-arc that gets the show started and sets the tone for where things will go. Not here. The pilot was regular network drama episode length (43 minutes) but felt like an hour and a hour as it meandered, driving past logical ending points, being incredibly unclear about any sense of scope, or firm definition of character, and leaving me with no idea of what the show is doing.

The Astronaut Wives Club truly feels like a network series, and particularly an ABC series, trying to walk the line between prestige, family-friendliness, marrying the simple and the complex, and meeting none of those goals. The pilot almost feels more like a TV movie and then keeps going when you think it’s about to end. It crazily takes place over the course of two years, which seems like a lot of time to span for absolutely no reason.

The set up is that as the seven (real-life) Mercury program astronauts are chosen, one of whom will be the first American man in space, a reporter (played by Rectify’s Luke Kirby) will be constantly covering them to push the story for NASA, but he’ll be focusing equally on their wives to present America with a truly ‘50s wife-and-kids-support-the-man perspective of what makes American right and good and wholesome and better than the USSR. It’s tough to tell whether the article is going to be a running thread or merely a reason to have the wives get to know each other, and the answer is well, I’m still not sure. The show keeps coming back to the article, but it also doesn’t really have any point. The Astronaut Wives Club is just kind of a rambling tale about the wives mostly, with some focus on the astronauts. I actually don’t really know what it’s about. By speeding two years from the announcement of the Mercury astronauts to the first manned flight, it’s hard to get too much of a beat on any of the characters beyond the broadest characters, and not even those for some; I could not have recited more than one or two of the wives names after just finishing the pilot. Alan Shepard’s wife cheats on him, but she doubles down standing by him, while Gordon Cooper’s wife had been ready to divorce him in response to his cheating, but they stayed together temporarily for his career. There’s something about how as the boys play and carouse, the wives have to stick together and be there for one another? Or maybe not. First there are parts implying that the wives are not going to get along, then they just kind of do.

This disorder is especially surprising for a pilot that seems so relatively straightforward. The idea would be that we’ll try to see how these women in the ‘50s, though housewives, had their own complex lives and interactions, and were every bit as important as the men. It was just shockingly all over the place. From the pilot, I have absolutely no idea where the rest of the show is going, especially considering it spanned two years, from the birth of the Mercury program in 1959 to past Alan Shepard’s flight in 1961, and there were even more events after that presumable ending point. Is every episode going to take this long and just take the through the whole Mercury period?

There’s really nothing to take out of this show. I don’t really understand why it exists, what it’s goal is, and what it’s plan is, and not because it doesn’t want me to know. There’s not really a lot to note.

Will I watch it again? No. It was 43 minutes and felt like much longer. That’s rarely a compliment. It was a strange show, leading nowhere.

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